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A Sense of Fun: Anybody Could Be Your Player 1
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A Sense of Fun: Anybody Could Be Your Player 1

October 7, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Currently, we at NanaOn-Sha are working hard on a game [Major Minor's Majestic March] that will hopefully make the best of the Wii platform.

Using the Wii remote for music games seems like a perfect match, but it has many difficulties. Music games need accurate data, quickly-and this is not a strong point of motion sensing controllers.

Instead of focusing on traditional rhythm based gameplay, we decided to let the player control the tempo of a musical performance by waving the baton in a marching band. You can dynamically change the bpm of the performance - a completely new form of music game that would not be possible with digital controllers.

At the same time we have other issues to consider - such as the player physically tiring out or getting bored of repetitive movements - so we've had to come up with many ideas to create an innovative and rewarding experience.

While we are currently working on a game for the Wii, I think that in the near future we will see games leaving our video displays. I'm anticipating an evolution in tangible experiences. You may think it a joke, but I do believe that we will see a day where Street Fighter games see you actually fighting a robot bare fisted.

One day we will look back with embarrassment on this era when all of our virtual experiences were trapped behind a screen. This advance will have great implications for the role of games within society, and the wider possibilities of tangible experiences could make the word "game" insufficient to describe what we are doing. I would like to introduce some examples of things that have led me to think about this.

I created some music for a Japanese automobile company's pavilion at the 2005 Aichi Expo in Nagoya, which was about a futuristic one-man car. On this occasion, we were challenged with creating music that would convey the sense of interaction that a human might feel with a one-man vehicle as an extension of one's body image.

It is said of existing cars that they are an extension of your body image. We particularly prioritize the ability to travel safely at high speeds on expressways.

In this kind of dangerous environment, it is natural to want to arm oneself as robustly as possible. I think that the current nature of cars causes us to think in this way.

On the other hand, this vehicle is a one-man vehicle and doesn't make us feel that way. The engine is silent.

Also this vehicle is a high-aspiration concept that envisages multiple units cooperating automatically on the highways, but at the high speeds of current cars. At least from a visual perspective this concept looks a little bit like a video game.

In this kind of environment, of course all kinds of sounds will be necessary for different functions, confirmations and so on. Nowadays with computers, there are a large number of strange alert sounds and so on that ring away, but nobody seems to mind. After all, computers are just boxes that can't move, right?

But when these sounds occur in something like this vehicle, carrying a human passenger and traveling at a high speed, the passenger is unable to stay calm and focused. In fact, if the driver can't quickly understand the meaning of the alert, it's downright dangerous. Therefore, we decided to undertake this experiment with the ambition to expand the borders of music, and with a concept grounded on attempting to communicate these functions of music.

Anybody Could Be Your Player 1

The neurologist Alan Snyder suggests of children with Savant Syndrome that as their knowledge of languages piles up, they lose their natural genius ability to draw incredibly precise pictures. In other words, as the left brain develops we lose our ability to see detail. Extending this to everyday reality, in my head, when I am informed simply of a general idea, I become less inquisitive about it in my heart.

Games are important media that help us actively experience these new ideas. Outside of games, in some other forms of representative media, we require some prior knowledge or expectations in order to understand and feel the contents.

This is not completely necessary in the case of games. You get an interactive reply to your input in an instant and good games can teach you about themselves. But games also have the potential to reach out and affect deep emotions. This is why games are fun, and also important.

I think in today's world we are suffering from a lack of mutual understanding of each other's differences. That games are fostering this rejection of mutual understanding is very saddening to me, particularly as this is the industry that we work in. As I grew up I was heavily influenced by Western culture, and this passion continues to this day.

For this reason, I would like to see Western developers make a bigger effort to develop products that will also appeal to the other markets. Like me, I would like future generations to experience the joys of respecting the culture of different countries.

The Choice is Theirs

I mentioned earlier the idea of positive emergence, and I think that the biggest stimulus for this is the sense of hearing. Even if you don't want to hear it, sound makes its way into our ears, and sometimes this is of course an inconvenience. This is why speech became a way to read and consider your companions and environments.

With games, the player cannot enjoy the product without buying a package or downloading something. Unlike listening, they have a choice. If we are saying things that they don't want to listen to, they can ignore us. So we need to find a language that appeals to everyone, and if we do, then it doesn't matter who your "Player 1" is - it could be anyone.

[Matsuura's DICE 2008 presentation, which this article is partly  based on, was recorded and can be seen here. If you just want to see the spectacular audiovisual finale, skip to 40:00 and watch.]

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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